Monday, 27 October 2014

Bloggers' Quilt Festival Autumn 2014

Thanks for popping in to see my entry in the Bloggers' Quilt Festival.  I haven't managed many finished quilts since the last festival (no surprise there!) and didn't think I'd be entering this time round, but Nicky reminded me about the mini category and so here I am!

City Walk

I made this little quilt, 'City Walk' (naming quilts isn't something I usually do but I felt that participating in a blog hop and designing a pattern for Oakshott warranted a quilt name!) in July when I was part of an Oakshott blog hop and is designed around the traditional 'walking triangles' block.  I wrote a rather ridiculously long tutorial for it as part of the blog hop and you can find that here, should you wish to make your own version.

The quilt is made from a F8 bundle (plus a piece of wadding and a piece of fusible fleece) and I decided that I wanted to make something useful as well as decorative so this little quilt also doubles as a block roll (to keep pieces in the right place as you're piecing, going back and forth to the ironing board or taking your sewing to a friend's house) and will hang on the wall when not in use.

The quilt top is hand pieced (I draw round freezer paper templates to give me a sewing line, remove the templates, cut them out with an estimated quarter inch seam allowance and then hand piece using a running back stitch along the marked lines) and machine quilted (in the ditch).  It is finished with a traditional knife-edge finish (rather than binding), which gives a nice sharp edge to a quilt.

City Walk

The quilt is 20" square, so just sneaks into the mini category.  It has 224 pieces in the top (each block, consisting of four walking triangles, finishes at 6" square), including the borders and cornerstones and I must admit that I'm quite rather pleased with how it turned out!

As I mentioned, it's also a block roll and here it is keeping some pieces from a current project safe (I have a habit of forgetting which particular square goes where and sewing something different from my plan which usually then needs unpicking):

City Walk - a block roll-cum-little quilt

And here it is rolled up (with the pieces inside but you'll have to trust me on that!) and secured with the tie which is attached to the top edge (you can just see it folded over to the front in the photo above):

City Walk - a block roll-cum-little quilt

City Walk
Quilt stats:

Finished size: 20" x 20"
Pattern: based on a traditional 'Walking Triangles' block
Piecing: by hand, using freezer paper templates and a running back stitch
Piecing thread: Aurifil 50wt 2600 (dove grey)
Quilting: by machine, in the ditch
Quilting thread: Aurifil 50wt 2310 (light beige)

Thank you for taking the time to read this post (or just look at the photos!), I'm off to see what everyone else has been up to!

P.S.  This may be my entry to the festival but it wouldn't be a blog post without some photos of Archie, would it?!!

As regular readers will know, Archie has recently had a flare up of a back injury/arthritis and so is no longer allowed to climb stairs or steps.  As I can't close off my stairs, I've had to get a couple of stair gates fitted (I have a lovely brother!) and if I'm spending time upstairs on an afternoon (either sewing or sleeping) then I carry him up.  He's fine sleeping downstairs overnight but if I go upstairs during the day he starts to fret.  Carrying him up means he's happy (and asleep!) which makes me happy and also means I can concentrate on sewing without having to hang over the banister every few minutes to reassure him I'm still there!  Of course, what goes up must come down...

I'd like to come back downstairs now, if you don't mind.

I know this thing opens but I just don't seem to be able to get it to work

*sigh* Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease may I come down?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Scraptastic Tuesday: Log Cabin Blocks

On the second Tuesday of each month, Nicky and Leanne are hosting a scrappy linky party, entitled 'Scraptastic Tuesday'.  You can link up a blog post or Flickr photo (and possibly an Instagram photo but as I'm not on IG I'll leave that to the rest of you to work out!) about a scrappy project or scrap sorting system and you'll have a chance to win a prize from one of their sponsors.  Why not join in?  They've done something clever (I think it might be magic) with the linky party and you can link up to the same party from either of their blogs.  This month you have two weeks to add your link.

We're approaching the end of the current year with Bee A Brit Stingy (the second year of the bee and my first year as a proper bee) and our penultimate Queen Bee is Catherine, who chose scrappy blog cabin blocks as her block.  She asked for the blocks to be the classic dark and light log cabin blocks; two of the blocks needed to have a dark side made from bright and cheerful strips and the other block(s) needed to have a 'proper' dark (but not sludgy) side.

I had a lovely time in my sewing room yesterday afternoon and in just under two hours managed to make four blocks, all from fabric in my scrap boxes.

Log cabin blocks 'bright and cheerful'
Two 'bright and cheerful' blocks

Log cabin blocks 'dark and brooding'
Two 'dark and brooding' blocks

My blocks are a smidge larger than they should be (7.625" unfinished, rather than 7.5") but I've left them that size and Catherine can trim 1/16" off each side if necessary!

Before the light completely disappeared yesterday, I managed to take a quick photo of all the blocks on my ironing board (complete with new cover - one I've had in the cupboard for over a year while I eked out the old one for as long as possible!) so that Catherine could see them:

Blocks for Catherine - Bee A Brit Stingy October 2014

I made sure to include some space fabric I had in my box as Catherine is interested in astronomy and had fun choosing other fabrics to go in the mix, like the gold ladybirds (which, for some reason, feel like lucky ladybirds) and the cherry lips.  There's something very satisfying about making something completely from scraps, isn't there?  Almost like you've made it for nothing!  I'm going to be Queen Bee in November and have a scrappy block planned.  I really need to get moving and make my sample blocks and sort out a (very, very simple) tutorial.

I've also started work on an item on my FAL list and have spent several hours measuring, cutting and tacking fabric to pieces of paper before squashing my intense dislike of EPP (I know plenty of you love it but I don't!  It's handy for this heavy Japanese import fabric, though, as it's prone to fraying and is hard to hand piece because it's so thin.  It's bloomin' hard work, though!) and getting down to work on a new pin cushion:

A start (and a penguin)
Mr Penguin, off to work (I like to think he's the penguin who founded the book publishing house and he's off for a hard day of reading at the office.

Adding the 'walls' of the pin cushion
Adding the walls (i.e. sides) of the pin cushion

A partly complete pin cushion makes an excellent temporary storage basket!
Nearly all the walls added and it now makes a lovely (temporary) storage basket!  Apologies for the night time photo!

I'm now just about to attach the bottom and then I can turn it through and get stuffing (which always takes far longer and far, far more stuffing than you ever imagine) and then a bit more hand stitching and it'll be finished!  I'm not sure that fabric which is as expensive as this can ever be regarded as 'scraps' but most of my pieces are the size of a charm square or smaller (with a few exceptions where I have a FQ or a 5" strip) so, technically, this pin cushion is made from scraps.  (Handy, given that it's Scraptastic Tuesday!)

Archie went to the vet yesterday for a checkup and she was thrilled with his progress.  He's now off the steroids and is on a doggy anti-inflammatory, which will hopefully see the end of the side effects of the steroids (weeing for England and constantly whinging for food).  He's also going to start taking glucosamine, once I find the right dose.  The vet said to go to Holland and Barrett and ask for 'glucosamine for a 14kg dog' but when my mam went today the assistant gave her a bottle and said 'these are the strongest we sell'.  I don't know about you but it doesn't seem right to give a medium-sized dog the same dose as a fully grown human so I need to check that the dose is right before I open the bottle.  I suspect I'll be going back to the shop on Friday for a refund...  Once Archie is happy on the anti-inflammatory and glucosamine, I can start to increase his walk by five minutes a week (still on the lead and still a slow walk/stroll but at least it's a walk) and see how he copes.  I've even dismantled the cage this afternoon and Archie wasn't too sure he was happy to see it go:

Where are you taking that?  I was becoming quite fond of it!

On Sunday, Archie enjoyed what could prove to be the last of the sunshine this year:

I love my bed!!


Now Archie isn't allowed to ascend (or descend) the stairs (and needs lifting in and out of the house), I have a stair gate at the top and bottom of the stairs.  I was a bit concerned (rightly so, as it turns out) that he would try to 'paw' open the gate at the bottom of the stairs so he could join me upstairs, so I did what any self-respecting quilter would do:

What does a quilter put on a stair gate?
Quilt made from a Moda scrap bag and scraps of assorted white-on-white fabric - there's seems to be a theme to this blog post!
It presents a more solid barrier and Archie hasn't once tried to paw open the quilt!

Finally, I received a lovely surprise in the post today:

Isn't this little quilt gorgeous?

Catherine listed this little quilt in her Q4 FAL post and has sent it to me for my sewing room wall!  It has a little hanging loop on the back which is a great way to hang little quilts (and one I'll be remembering!).  Thank you, Catherine, you're a treasure!

Thanks for popping in - don't forget to link up to Scraptastic Tuesday and then have a nosy at what everyone else is doing with their scraps!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

FAL Q4: The Proposal

Finish Along 2014

I think I may have been visited by madness when compiling this list.  For the last couple of months I've been adding projects as I thought about/remembered them and all of a sudden I seem to have the most enormous list of things I'd like to get finished.  Fortunately, my natural realism has reasserted itself and I know I'm not going to get all of these finished in three months (or even half of them in double the time!) but I'm going to give it a good go!

Pin cushion plans
Pin cushion
I'm in need of a new pin cushion and am going to make a larger version of the small EPP Japanese pin cushions I've made in the past.  This would be a good evening project, I just need to bury my complete dislike of EPP for a fortnight or so!!

Dresden little quilt
Dresden little quilt
This gorgeous fabric is going to become a Dresden plate which will then be turned into a little quilt for my sewing room wall - I think I'm going to add some embroidery around the edge (and possibly in the centre), if I can decide on the colours of thread and background!

Christmas tree decorations
Tree decorations
A friend gave me this kit for Christmas last year and I'd like to hang the decorations on the tree this year.  If I just do a few minutes at a time then the skin on my hands will hopefully cope with the wool felt and I'll get them made!

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch
Mr Fancy Pants Pouch
When I entered Katy's giveaway (in March this year), I promised that I would take Mr Fancy Pants Pouch on a trip to Whitby for an ice cream and a stagger up the 199 steps (followed by a very, very, very long rest at the top.  And a cake.); I need to get him made so I can keep my promise.

Felt picture
Felt embroidery
This felt embroidery has been on my FAL list before and I didn't do anything with it.  I've now decided to put it in this frame, embroidered (possibly) onto some sort of background (possibly a solid the same shade as that plummy-pink felt?).  Once I decide what I'm doing and find the right background, this could be quite a rapid finish!  (Famous last words...)

Blueberry Park pouch
Blueberry Park pouch
I won this gorgeous pencil case in Jan's giveaway (in September 2013) and I really need to make it, rather than admiring Karen's packaging and printed fabric!

Hand quilted panel
Hand quilted panel - this desperately needs a press!
This is the first thing I quilted when I was learning to quilt with a hoop and two thimbles (before this I used neither but the pain got too much and it was either learn a new way of hand quilting or give up!) and is going to become a cushion, possibly with pale pink binding.

ET test block
ET block - Something else which is also desperate for a press!
I made this test block before I committed to making a whole quilt of these wonderful ET block (designed by Lynne, pattern here) and then put it aside once the excitement of the 'real' project took over.  This is going to become a little quilt for my sewing room wall.

Nicky kindly sent me the hardware to make my own clock and I thought these 10" squares would make lovely feature fabrics in a clock block.  I have a block in mind (this hexy), I just need to scale it up and decide on fabric placement.

Sewing machine print
Sewing machine print
I'm the proud owner of a sewing machine print by Emily and I want to turn it into a little quilt for my sewing room wall (yes, I think this is the quarter of the little quilt!).  I'm pondering adding some embroidery but I'm worried that might spoil it!

Aqua and grey cushion - the colour is dreadful in this photo, sorry!  There's a much better photo here 
This is a rollover from last quarter and has moved on, but only a little!  It's going to be a cushion...eventually!

Cushion cover kit
Seamstar cushion kit
I won this fabulous cushion cover kit from Seamstar when Kerry had a giveaway (in May this year) and now is the time to make it, I hope!!

Draught excluder
Draught excluder
A few years ago (three?  Four?) I bought this stunningly ugly draught excluder (the colour is far, far worse in real life!) with the intention of covering it before I used it.  I've finally decided that denim would be the best fabric to use (my first choice was cord but that would be a nightmare with Archie's hair!) and I'm hoping that it won't take long to make.  I helped Mam cover hers and it took about half an hour so if I factor in a little more time (to dismantle a jeans' leg) then an hour or so should see it finished.  Provided I don't add any embellishment, that is!

I seem to have started something new...
Bargello canvaswork
I started this canvaswork last week and have become more than slightly obsessed with it.  It's going to be a purse and could be finished in a relatively short amount of time, once I've decided on a zip colour!

Christmas Cherry progress
Christmas Cherry
Another rollover!  I stand a snowball in Hell's chance of finishing this before the quarter is up but I'm adding it to the (massive) list anyway.  You never know, if we have a really cold winter then I may spend lots of time under this, hand quilting and watching Christmas films, while trying not to turn the heating on too often!!

Now do you see what I meant about being touched with madness?!  I wonder if I can just link up the same list for the five quarters..?

While I was taking photos of all these proposals, Archie managed to finally make it upstairs and into my sewing room (I worked out a way to prop the stair gate open without it falling off the wall (it's now fixed, I hope!) and carried him up and then back down when I was finished - I have another gate at the top to stop him coming back down) and he immediately made himself at home:

Back where I belong, under the sewing table. (The whinging paid off!)

Finally but most importantly, are you the lovely someone who bought me a surprise copy of 'Little Quilts' by Sarah Fielke and Amy Lobsiger?  It arrived this week and I have no idea who it's from but I'd like to say thank you.  You don't need to identify yourself if you don't want to (either here or by email!) but I wanted to let you know how thoughtful it was and what a brilliant book it is!  In fact, I can see me being tempted to make several of the little quilts in the book rather than the little quilts on this list (don't tell Katy, she might tell me off.  Don't tell Nicky, either, she'll definitely tell me off!!).  Thank you, friend, you're a proper treasure!!

I hope you're all having a good weekend.  I must go, I've got a ridiculous FAL list to tackle!  Thanks for popping in!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Flourish Of Finishes: Hardanger Strawberry

Finish Along 2014

This is my final finish for this quarter and is, once again, something small!

Back in July, when I wrote my FAL Q3 list, I included my first piece of hardanger, which looked almost finished but in fact had the nerve-racking cutting out still to be done, as well as the needle weaving and dove's eye stitches to finish off:

It's only a small piece of hardanger - that's a 4" hoop!

By the end of July I had a finish, just not a blog post about that finish (no change there, then!) and, although it's only small, I do love it and can honestly say there's more work in it than you'd think to look at it!!

Hardanger strawberry

It's a surprisingly hard thing to photograph and I completely forgot to take a photo of the hardanger before I stitched it onto the strawberry, so I'm afraid these photos will have to do!

Hardanger strawberry

I think the strawberry is about 1.5" high and the hardanger is somewhere around 1.5" across its widest point - quite small but not so small that you need a magnifier to stitch it!  It was stitched on 28 count evenweave, using Perle 8 and 12 in a lovely zingy green (I'm not sure of the number but it's probably equivalent to either DMC 704 or 907).  This may be my first piece of hardanger, but I don't think it's going to be my last and I may have to see if I can work a piece into a little quilt for my sewing room wall.

I seem to have started another piece of embroidery and I'm slightly obsessed with stitching it can't put it down!  I started it yesterday (at a class run by my magnificent friend Beryl of Knot - read in the right (or perhaps, wrong) way, I think that sounds like a marvellous title to have!)) and, because my (right) hand/wrist was already sore before I started (I think all the typing for my recent  flourish of blog posts has aggravated my tendonitis/tennis elbow/whatever the hell it is) and was even worse after a couple of minutes, I've decided to stitch this with my left hand.  I'm not very right-handed (I was 'undecided' by the time I started school and may well have been left-handed if I'd been left to my own devices) - there are things I do right-handed (crochet, knitting, writing), things I can only do left-handed (peeling and chopping, eating, spreading butter, etc.  I've just realised that they're mainly food-related!) and things I do with either hand, depending on which is closest/free!) so I have relatively good fine motor skills in my non-writing hand and the only difference in my stitching is that it's ever so slightly slower than usual!  

I seem to have started something new...

This is going to become a little zip purse and will probably appear on my Q4 list!

As I type, Archie is enjoying some sunshine and is most content as he's had a walk (with lots and lots of sniffs!), some biscuits and now the sun is out so he can warm his bones:


That's me all caught up with my finishes, yippee!!  All I need to do now is catch with the other things I've been doing which weren't on my FAL list (some Summersville squares, my second ET block, the garden, ermmmm *thinks really hard* *quite a while later remembers moving furniture and hundreds of books* my newly arranged sewing room) as well as some lovely prizes I've received in the last few months and then I'm all up to date!  And then I'm going to make a big effort to blog more regularly, maybe even once a week!  (I've just noticed that this is blog post number 101, yes just like the Dalmations!, and it's only taken me three years and (nigh on) two months to get there!  I think that qualifies me for Slow Blogger status, don't you?!)

I hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend and that the sun is shining down on you and warming your bones.  Archie thinks everyone needs to warm their bones as much as possible and that if you see a patch of sunshine you are morally obliged to lie down in it so you'd best do as he commands.

Friday, 3 October 2014

A Flourish Of Finishes: Simple Tote Bag

Finish Along 2014

Another item on my FAL Q3 list was to turn these fabrics (half a metre of each) and this trim (all brought back from France by a friend) into a simple tote bag:


I used this as another distraction activity while Archie was poorly but again I couldn't be away from him for long as the whines were really quite mournful and he kept getting distressed.  I'd like to blame this for a certain 'design feature' inside the'll see what I mean in a moment!

I decided to keep the bag as simple as possible, just a straightforward tote bag for carrying parcels to the post office, etc. and so I kept nipping upstairs to cut fabric or sew a seam, in between sitting in front of Archie's cage and reassuring him that everything was okay.  After an afternoon of nipping, stitching and unpicking (that sounds like a sewing class in an infant class, doesn't it?!) I had a bag!

French bag - outside

And now it's time to reveal my 'design feature'.  I made the outside of the bag and then made the lining the same size, following the measurements I'd noted down when making the outside.  Or so I thought...

When I put the inside and outside together, ready to join them, I discovered that there was no way they were going to fit together.  After some investigation, it turned out that the lining was 2" narrower than the outside.  Ah.  I didn't have a large enough strip of the lining fabric left (ironically I'd cut a 2" strip off the lining and wondered why I was trimming so much more lining than outer!) so had to sort through my stash and scraps to find something to make up the difference.

Thankfully, Nicky must have known that at some point I'd need a cream, tan and brown fabric and had sent me a strip of the perfect fabric - it feels like it's from Art Gallery Fabrics but I have no idea of the name.  It's not AGF but a Japanese fabric from Kei, available from PolkaDotTeaFabrics.

I used a red polyester thread from Empress Mills, which I won a couple of years ago from Alison, to sew the lining and it was a great colour match as well as lovely to stitch with.  I used an Aurifil 50wt (5011) for the outside, again it just happened to be a perfect colour match.  Isn't it nice when you have the thread you need already in your thread box?!  I would usually use a polyester thread or heavier cotton thread for top stitching on bags but I didn't have anything in the right colour so decided to stitch extra lines, both for strength and to also add a bit more interest.  I stitched either side of the seams on the side and bottom of the bag and on the other side, where there isn't a seam, I stitched a line along the fold and then either side of it, mirroring the other side.  It took a bit more time than simply joining along the seams but it adds a nice touch and also means the seams sit nice and flat; I'd definitely do this again.

Rather than simply top stitching a straight line round the top of the bag, I used the feather stitch on my machine.  It got a bit closer together as I stitched over the bulky handles but I can live with it!

Since I finished it, this bag has become my favourite one for taking to the shops or carrying presents to friends' houses, etc. and I think it's all to do with the handles: long enough to carry the bag on my shoulder but comfortable to hold in my hand, narrow enough to not feel in the way but wide enough to feel sturdy.  I've never seen this trim before but if I ever do see some, I'll be investing in a few metres of it!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and do some stitching.  I'd hoped to start stitching the border squares for my Christmas Cherry but each time I go upstairs for more than a couple of minutes (except, thankfully at night!), I hear plaintive whining coming from the bottom of the stairs and when I look down I see this:

What are you doing up there?  And why can't I join you?  Please come back!

Once I come back down and he's sure I'm staying, he suddenly becomes all content and settled:


And rather than whining, all I can hear is a contented whiffle...

So, instead of some machine piecing, I'm going to return to a project that I have decided to become reacquainted with.  I haven't touched it in months (probably not since the start of the year or even the end of last year!) and I now have more than a touch of the 'can't put it down's for it.  I think that's partly because I've adopted a different stitching sequence (I'll explain more in another post, if anyone's interested), which makes it feel less 'bitty'.  I have the final round to finish adding and then I'll have made two blocks (out of thirty-five, if I remember correctly) and I'll then need to prepare another block.  I have lots (and lots!) of triangles already prepped, it's just the background pieces that I need to sort out, plus any extra triangles I need to make the colours/scrappiness work.

Second ET block in progress

I think I have one more finish post to go and then I'm caught up.  After that, I'll see if I can sort some posts about things I've been doing which aren't on my FAL list (the garden, my Summersville project and some lovely prizes I've won in recent weeks) and then I'll be completely caught up.  That'll make a nice change, I wonder how long it'll last!

Thanks for popping in, I hope your week is ending on a high note!

P.S. For the attention of Jenny Larking and DianneO!  You left lovely comments on one of my previous posts but you are both 'no-reply bloggers' and so I can't reply to your comment via email!  You may be inadvertently missing out on replies to comments, prizes from giveaways, etc. due to this so please click on this link and add an email address to your account!  Thank you!
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